RMAF: Everyone's Favorite Show Opens on Friday

There is no need for Denver's Rocky Mountain Audio Fest to toot its own horn. The three-day affair, which opens at noon on Friday, October 12 in the Denver Marriott Tech Center, promises no less than 431 exhibitors; 174 exhibitor rooms, including 24 large ones (same since 2009): 41 miscellaneous vendors; 35 CANJAM vendors; and an impressive number of show debuts (see below).

The largest US high-end audio show open to the public is also, despite its size and occasionally snow-encrusted environs, the warmest and friendliest audiophile show in the country. For this we owe thanks to Marjorie Baumert, who continues to nurture and sustain the show following the death of her show co-founder and husband, Al Stiefel, at the start of 2009; the exceptional staff at the comfortable Marriott; a dedicated cadre of volunteers drawn from the Colorado Audio Society and Marjorie's extended circle of friends and family; and exhibitors who, welcoming the relative peace and quiet of the location, approach the show as if reuniting with old friends.

This year, the show maintains its reputation for excellence by hosting two seminar rooms, in different parts of the hotel, where different topics will be covered simultaneously. Sure to be standing room only are John Atkinson's four installments of "Just How 'Absolute' Is Recorded Sound?", whose premise is different from what you might think; Roy Gregory's whopping nine installments of two different seminars, "System Set-Up" and "Original or Re-issue"; an "Ask the Experts" panels on Computer Audio chaired by AudioStream.com's Michael Lavorgna; Chris Connaker's role-your-own seminar on extracting high-resolution content from DVD Audio and Blu-ray discs; and much more. I'm especially intrigued by a Friday evening panel, "High-End Audio—Retaining the High Ground," at which Ken Kessler chats with audio legends Dan D'Agostino, Mikey Fremer, Kathy Gornik, Roy Hall, and Peter McGrath.

"The fact that we've increased our seminars is great for the attendees," Marjorie told Stereophile. "I even had to hire two more videographers, which means we'll have all the seminars online for those who can't attend. And for those who can, I'm excited that we've sold more standard three-day passes than senior passes; maybe that means that more young people are coming. I've also heard from more women than ever before, which means there will be more women in the special women's outing on Saturday morning." RMAF's live music roster is equally exceptional. In addition to what sounds like a wonderful evening with chanteuse Anne Bisson, in which she'll discuss the ins and outs of her recording career, and a DJ'd party on Saturday evening that starts surprisingly early, an hour-long Saturday eve acoustic recital by pianist Fan-Ya Lin, hosted by RMAF and Kimber Kable, introduces a young artist who has won an intimidating number of Young Artist competitions. Fan-Ya Lin will also perform at other times throughout the weekend, cleansing audiophile ears with a generous offering of the real thing.

Show Premieres Galore
In a fit of lunacy, yours truly asked Marjorie to request manufacturers to send Stereophile information on product debuts and show debuts. After rescuing too many such notices from my Spam folder, I ended up with the following list. Take a deep breath.

Perhaps the most heralded debut will be Wilson Audio's Alexia, a loudspeaker that brings the time-domain and driver technology of the vaunted Alexandria XLF to a cabinet slightly larger than the Sasha. In exalted company, the Alexia joins the first U.S. public showing of the dCS Vivaldi Digital System, and a revisit to the much-lauded Spiral Groove SG1.1 turntable and Centroid tonearm, with VTL Reference level electronics and a prospector's bonanza of Transparent cabling making it all possible.

Other debuts include the HB Cable Design PowerSlave Marble power distributor, Stage III Kraken power cord, new Tandem Statement equipment racks and amp stands, Ypsilon SET100 Ultimate amps, Bud Fried (!) MTM tower loudspeakers, Abyss AB-1266 headphones from JPS Labs, Burson Audio Conductor DAC/headphone amp and preamp and Timekeeper power amp, Bob Carver ALS1000 line source loudspeakers, DeVore Fidelity Orangutan 0/93, Dupuy Audio Bongo and Kata Trio stand mounted loudspeakers (the latter with subwoofer), Electrocompaniet ECI-6DS integrated amplifier, Gershman Acoustics Idol loudspeaker (just blogged by Robert Deutsch at TAVES), Parasound Halo A31 three-channel power amplifier (reviewed by Kal Rubinson in his "Music in the Round column, Resonessence Labs Concero USB DAC, and a second "sneak peak" at the Antelope Audio Rubicon Atomic AD/DA preamp that includes real-time listening tests between analog recordings and digital copies.

Emerald Physics touts 11 new products, including the CS2P open-baffle loudspeaker, three MS monitor speakers, four EP power amplifiers, two USB DACs, and their first digital crossover/equalizer. Abbindgdon Music Research (AMR) brings a new i-Fi line of products aimed at iPod users, with a USB power conditioner, portable HD DAC, headphone amplifier, and MC/MM phono stage, each priced below $500. Then comes Coincident Speaker Technology's Dragon Mk.II monoblock amplifiers, Kron Audio's SX stereo amplifier and VA880 integrated amplifier, Living Sounds Audio's Super-Statement hybrid integrated amplifier, NOLA's final-form KO loudspeaker, Schröder's LT pivoted linear tracker tonearm, George Warren Precision Sound's prototype dual-arm turntable, Nordost's American-made HDMI cable certified for high-speed with Ethernet, Plinius's Tiki network audio player and Arataki iPad application, MG Audio Design cabling, Zellaton Studio Reference One loudspeakers, Nagra Jazz and Melody preamplifiers, Metronome C8 and C5 Reference DACs, Holborne Analog 2 MK 22 turntable, Swissonor VSOP integrated amplifier, Serenity Acoustics Super-7 loudspeaker, Austin Hifi Tocaro 45D and 42D loudspeakers, MC Music Culture Technology mc501A CD/USB dual player, Sanders Sound Systems full-function preamplifier, Sonic Studios' Amarra and Amarra Hifi 2.4.3 release and Sonic Studio Processor (an OS X-based software driver), Hegel H300 integrated amplifier/32-bit DAC, and FAL Company's S.I.T-7000 stereo power amplifier, Flat C full-range and Heil A.M.T. drivers.

Thought the list was finished? How about the Sonus Veritas Florence KT120-based class-A monoblock amplifier and updated Modena DAC, a first-time showing at RMAF by ProAc USA, Supravox Glamour 215-2000 speaker and driver unit, Teresonic Magus A55 loudspeaker and Clarison cabling, Baetis Media Server V2, Triode TRV-DAC1, United Home Audio Phase 11 reel-to-reel tape deck, Vanatoo Transparent One loudspeakers (recently reviewed by Michael Lavorgna at AudioStream), Volti Audio Veretta single-driver (Feastrex NF5) loudspeaker, VPI LCG tonearm, Cambridge 351A integrated amp, three levels of Wireworld upgrade replacement cables for high-end headphones, Wyred4Sound mAmp and mPre, Zesto Audio Leto preamp, the Zilplex acoustic resonators, dc10audio's Berlin studio monitor, PranaWire's Vajra SE power cable, seven new power cords from Synergistic Research in the Element and Galileo series, several loudspeakers from Sonus faber's new Venere line, and Simaudio's new Moon 740P preamplifier and Moon 860A and 870A power amplifiers, all driven by material sourced from Simaudio's 180 MIND music streamer. Then, add in at least 15 more product debuts from companies that either missed the call for press releases, sent them too late, or weren't sure if their new product's enclosure would arrive in time.

Premieres in the CANJAM room, other than those mentioned above, include several new Ultimate Ears headphone models, including the UE 900 in-ear monitor; V-MODA M-100 headphones; Ray Samuels Audio Intruder headphone amp/USB DAC; Sennheiser Momentum headphones and other models, and perhaps a headphone amp; TTVJ Audio's Apex High Fi Audio Glacier portable headphone amp/USB DAC; and ALO Audio Pam Am tube amp/USB DAC. Headphone companies seem to favor capital letters.

The Word from Marjorie
"I feel really good about RMAF this year," she enthuses. "Magnepan is coming for the first time, and there are many others. We also have more international exhibitors, which means RMAF is getting a reputation around the world, which is pretty cool. I've also gotten a lot of support from the Colorado dealers this year. They have a really big presence, which indicates that business is starting to come back a little bit in the U.S. I'm really happy about that. I also think it's pretty cool that people are doing so many product rollouts at the show.

"I'm so fortunate because people really love the show, and the exhibitors are so kind. They're open and honest with me. They explain when business is bad and they can't come, but they maintain an open dialogue so that they can come back next year, when things improve.

"This is my fourth year doing the show alone. If I hadn't had six floods in my house and a broken oven, which meant that my home office had to be evacuated twice and I couldn't bring in an assistant to work amidst the mess, it would have been a lot easier. But RMAF stays strong, with my strongest attendance from Colorado and California. Despite the shows in Northern and Southern California, I haven't seen any downturn in the number of California visitors."

And why should there be? There is, after all, nothing like the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest.